87-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Tells How He Overcame Tragedy To Succeed

by Emily Arata

Ben Lesser, 87, survived the Holocaust for five long years.

In a poignant "Ask Me Anything" post to Reddit yesterday, the Polish author answered questions about the pain of having his family ripped away, working in death camps and starting a new life in the United States.

Lesser, who survived death camps in Auschwitz and Dachau, is the only surviving member of his family, save his older sister.

A few years after Dachau was liberated in 1945, a 19-year-old Lesser moved to America to start a new life.

And after years of speaking about the Holocaust to rapt audiences, Lesser penned his own book titled "Living A Life That Matters."

Today, Lesser is a father to two and a devoted husband. However, the memories of persecution and loss will haunt him forever.

That's not necessarily a negative thing: Lesser devoted his entire life to ensuring the world never forgets the Holocaust.

Here are a few of Lesser's most powerful AMA responses.

Lesser wrote about meeting two of his liberators for the first time.

At the University of Tennessee, I happened to accidentally meet the liberators of Dachau, 2 gentlemen who liberated me... When it was my turn to speak, I walk over to them with shaking knees, and I embrace them, and I say: "You two gentlemen gave me my life. You liberated me. I wouldn't be here without you."

He remembered what it was like to share his experience with Americans for the first time.

People didn't believe it, thought we were exaggerating. Until later on, when all the photographs and pictures and articles in the newspapers were verifying what we were telling them, people had a hard time believing it.

He emphasized his belief success is a matter of perseverance.

You can achieve anything you wish in this country [the US]. Don't use an excuse that you had a deprived childhood. My childhood was deprived. But that doesn't stop me from being a success, or working hard and achieving my goals, studying hard. All these things are excuses when you want to use them. If you really want it, and you work hard, you will achieve [it.] If you will it. Not just talking about it, but DOING it. Everything you can.

Life is a series of choices, and you are always in control of your own destiny.

Whether it's a crisis, or a calamity, people can choose to either ruin their lives, or to learn from it, and move forward. It's essential to understand the consequences of personal choices. It's possible to let tragedy or trauma become a reason to stop living. But it's also possible to live through extreme circumstances like I did and commit to a life that has meaning. A life that matters.

Lesser even came to terms with his anger.

I can't forgive those people who were directly involved, the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Obviously, I can never forgive them. And perhaps I feel that it's not really up to me. It's up to the victims. They have to forgive them. But I can't forget. But the other answer is: I do not blame the son for his father's sins. Which means I have nothing against the people of Germany today. They are not at fault for what happened.